Greg Combs wants veterans to give music a try, and we don’t mean singing the NSFW cadences you belted out during the battalion fun run. The former Army Ranger recently opened a Southern Pines chapter of Guitars 4 Vets (G4V), a national non-profit organization that offers a unique therapeutic alternative to veterans. It’s one of just five chapters across the state, with the next closest location in Charlotte.
The free program provides 10 lessons to veterans and a new acoustic guitar with accessory kit upon graduation. All instructors are volunteers.
Matt Mihacsi was the first instructor for the Southern Pines Chapter. An Army veteran who worked as a Forward Observer, Matt has been playing guitar for decades. He says the hobby was a constant throughout three tours to Iraq and one Afghanistan deployment.
The guitar is “percussive, it’s got reverberations throughout the body,” he says. “It’s got an attitude, if you’re feeling happy it comes out happy. It’s like going to a massage therapist. But you can take it with you pretty much anywhere.”
Once Matt left the military he picked up another hobby, cycling which is how he crossed paths with Greg, who coached the Army Cycling team at the 2016 Warrior Games.
Greg graduated from the Guitars for Vets program virtually in 2023 after being unable to find a local chapter. It just so happened that Matt had been trying to start one for more than a year. It was an obstacle Greg was eager to overcome and two-year feat. He loves what he calls a ‘brain challenge,’ and he’s mastered several throughout his life. In 1987, he survived a Traumatic Brain Injury as an officer in the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment while deployed to Central Asia.
But there was no slowing down for the Army Major, who was an avid triathlete and cyclist at the time. He kept his foot on the pedal(s) in 1996 as a member of the Army World Class Athlete Program in the Summer Olympics. Throughout his life, Greg has coached Rangers, elite endurance athletes, and veterans. He shares decades of experience through his businesses: the Velo Smart Performance Lab and May Street Bicycle Shop.
In 2017, Greg’s next challenge came crashing into his life–when he was hit by a car at 45 mph while cycling. He says the windshield ripped off his helmet, and he cracked his head on the pavement, resulting in an 11-inch skull fracture.
“I had to relearn things,” he says.
Learning to find solace in music and giving other veterans the same opportunity may be one of Greg’s most important life lessons yet.
“It’s a sense of self-worth. It’s like being an elite athlete, you’re doing something at a certain level and then you get an injury or start getting old, what’re you going to do next, what are you going to accomplish? It gives you another outlet.”
Greg’s next goal for Southern Pines Guitars 4 Vets is raising money for guitar giveaways and eventually week-long retreats. He’s holding jam sessions for G4V students and instructors to practice and mingle. You don’t have to shred or strum to attend, and there’s no judgment of your abilities.
“A sense of purpose is key,” he says. “If you feel good and you’re helping other people, you got something to live for.”